It is an early spring day, the first day in months that students are wearing shorts and at last storing their well-worn winter boots away — well, most students. SHS Seniors are bundled up in hoods, scarves, gloves, and, of course, have markers in hand. The contrast between the seniors’ clothing and the rest of the school’s can mean only one thing: Assassin has begun.
Assassin is an annual SHS tradition. The rules have remained the same for the most part. The goal of the game is to kill one’s target and inherit that target’s target, continuing to eliminate as many participants as possible. “Kills” or “assassinations” are defined as marking the target’s skin with a washable marker. Kills are reported back to this year’s Assassin organizer, Steven Nadel ’12. “I am operating a website where I update everyone on who is killed every day and the number of people left and let everyone know the rules,” explained Nadel. Although participants are assassinated for the most part in school, assassins have immunity in class, in the library, at an internship, while representing Scarsdale at an event, and while driving. About 150 players paid to enter. Prizes will run up to $400. Participants found out about their targets on Sunday, March 25th at midnight and have been hunting them since.
Ian Klein ’12 “assassinates” Willy Landsberg ’12
According to Nadel, about 100 players were eliminated in the first round and an additional 35 in the second. As of April 26th, there are six players left. Players are also competing for the title of “MVP,” the player with the most kills. Nadel believes that finalist Gibran Mian ’12, has the best chance.
The effort seniors put into the game give it the intensity of a varsity sport. As the game is progressing, the competition is only increasing. “In the beginning, I was pretty casual about it, but as more people were getting out, I started getting more into it. Now there are only 10 people left, I’m getting even more into it. I’ve gotten eight [students out] so far,” explained Mian.
Although participants such as Mian gradually became more competitive, other participants demonstrated their excitement and determination to win from the beginning. One demonstration of the enthusiasm for the game is the clothing the participants wear to minimize exposed skin surface, which makes an attack more difficult. “The first day when everyone comes in wearing their assassin gear — the scarves with their hoods and everything — it’s absolutely hysterical because it’s kind of warm out and they’re all bundled up like it’s the middle of winter,” recounted Danielle Nista ’12.
Just as the outfitting of the assassins is sure to be amusing, the actual kills can be even more entertaining. “Someone was waiting in line at ‘Nonni’s and they were talking to their friend about how they could let their guard down, standing in line at ‘Nonni’s, no one would assassinate them. Just after he said that, he was assassinated,” explained Roger Pellegrini ’12.
Funny kills can also be seen in the hallways of SHS. “There were two kids playing Assassin who were all covered up wearing gloves and scarves, it was really funny. And one was on crutches but he couldn’t go fast enough so he picked up the crutches and started hopping away,” recounted Becca Elsner ’14.
Although kills are mostly funny and even frightening, some can come across as violent. “A girl mauled a student in our grade. She basically started stabbing her and threw her onto the ground, repeatedly making her mark, which is unnecessary. She had made her mark in the beginning,” reported a senior who asked to remain anonymous.
Participating seniors were drawn to the game for it’s entertaining qualities. “In terms of why the game is fun, “I think it’s just the whole idea of kidding around and that it’s fun to surprise people,” explained Mian. “I think most seniors, including myself, decide to do it because it’s a nice distraction from everything that’s going on. You’re a second semester senior and school might not be the first thing on your mind, and you kind of want something else on your mind while you’re at school,” said Eric Dobosh ’12.
Though the game is popular, a large portion of the senior class opted out of the game. “It [the game] was starting up just as regular decision college decisions were coming up, and I figured that I had enough to worry about without having to look over my shoulder. I’m glad with my decision — a lot of my friends were just experiencing sheer terror,” said Pellegrini. Other forms of school pressures also contributed to others not participating in the game. “At the time when people were gathering the money in, I knew I had a research paper and a history research project to do, so I knew I would be devoting a lot of time to my school work and decided that it would probably be a better idea not participating in the game,” noted Nista.
Even those who did not play were able to participate by observing the game. “I enjoy watching it, hearing about it, and seeing people’s horrible sadness after they are assassinated,” commented Pellegrini. Some non-participants also indirectly helped with it. “I have walked people to class to make sure they don’t get assassinated and stuff like that. It’s a lot of fun,” recounted Nista.
Although the game of Assassin seems to be a controversial issue every year, it is regarded as a sort of tradition. The game, in fact, is an over twenty year-old tradition. “I talked to [Assistant Principal] Sue Peppers when I was organizing it, she said that her children were playing it in the nineties,” commented Nadel.
Some teachers feel that Assassin is a good way to unite the Senior class, just as long as there are no disruptions. “I like anything that brings the class together. School is serious — sometimes it gets too serious — and I really believe that it is good for seniors to have these kinds of experiences,” said English teacher Sue Silver. Many other teachers have also noted that as long as classes continue to be a safe zone and disruptions are not that prevalent in classrooms, there is no reason for the game to be stopped.
Despite a general understanding of the game, there are aspects of Assassin that rub teachers the wrong way. One particular aspect is the presence of money in the game. “Why does there have to be money involved? If it’s not a good enough or a worthwhile enough game unless there is gambling involved, then don’t have the game, “said Silver. For science teacher Nelson DaSilva, it is the killing aspect that rubs him the wrong way. “It’s a fun game, but the idea behind it isn’t. There’s really no thrill in killing people,” said DaSilva.
Even though some teachers are not directly affected by the game, some members of the SHS faculty are upset. One area of disruption is in the library. “It ended up that students were coming into the library to take a deep breath to get away from the game for a little. While [in the libary, they] were meeting with their friends and were very disruptive… disturbing students who were trying to work. It was a critical time because it was the end of third quarter and other students had serious papers to work on and a lot of exams,” explained Libarian Phyllis DiBianco.
DiBianco believes “they should make this a game that is not part of the school day… I think the administration should say, ‘if you want to play games, play outside and not in school’,” said DiBianco.
In terms of continuing Assassin in the future, despite some urges for reforming the game, students generally view it positively for its fun and unifying qualities. “I don’t see why we shouldn’t be able to continue the tradition. As long as nobody gets hurt or does anything that would end up harming someone… It’s a good way to get the seniors together,” concluded Nista.